Sunday, March 04, 2012

Stirrings at Restoration Farm – Seeding Onions, Leeks and Scallions and the Arrival of Heritage Chickens

At this point in the season, one might be tempted to complain a bit about “the winter of our discontent” but truth be told it hasn’t been very cold in the Northeast. We’ve been blessed with some beautifully warm days that allow for long walks and hours of bike riding. Crocus are peeking out of the soil. Yet it doesn’t quite alleviate the malaise that can often sneak up on you come mid-February.

So, I welcome the opportunity to join a group seeding the flats of onions, leeks and scallions that will germinate in the greenhouse and later be planted at Restoration Farm as part of our share for the 2012 season. With a little imagination, you can summon up visions of future meals – sandwiches topped with caramelized onions, potato leek soup, and stir fry garnished with bright green scallions.

As always, Head Grower Caroline Fanning has organized the seeding process with precise focus. There are sheets listing exactly how many flats and what varieties of allium will be planted. She says the start of seeding is her favorite day of the year.

The approach is a “two-finger” “two-handed” process. You use the first two fingers of your left hand to make dimples in the soil, and you use your right hand to guide several tiny seeds into the dimple using an index card folded to resemble a scoop.

The seeds are microscopic. It requires sharp eyesight and concentration.

At times, we become so engrossed that all you can hear is the wind outside the greenhouse.

I prepare flats of Gladstone Onions, and King Richard Leeks, which perhaps explains the quotation which opens this essay.

A young farmer in our group named Josh gets down and dirty.

He reports that the group completes 47 flats, and he knows because he carried each one of them across the yard for the final watering.

Meanwhile - in the house - a whole other rite of agriculture is unfolding. A brood of 40 newly-hatched heritage chicks have arrived. The box - which was shipped rush overnight – is chirping away loudly on the counter.

The chicks will be part of a planned heritage chicken program available this season. There are four different breeds and the chicks will reach maturity in about 12 weeks.

One-by-one they are shifted from the shipping box to the brooder, where they quickly locate their water and organic feed.

We’ll have the opportunity to experience new flavors, textures and recipes with these heritage breeds.

Our work completed, the crew shares a potluck lunch that includes a delicious hearty black been soup made by Lucille, cous cous with vegetables and a loaf of my multi-grain bread. There's something about a group effort, followed by a meal. The flavors are more satisfying than the fanciest of gourmet meals.

You can just taste the anticipation for the growing season ahead!

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Glad to see things are coming alive at the farm. Those baby chicks are adorable. Yes, you've had a warm winter in the northeast, which if I lived there would be considered a good thing. And if black bean soup is a reward for a day of work, count me in.

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Now it really feels like Spring is imminent! The thought that you are starting seeds whets my appetite for recipes to come later in the season.

Gloria Baker said...

what nice and wonderful work dear Thomas, really I congrats you.
beautiful pictures thanks by sharing:)

I love the little chicks(lol)
when I was a child always see these little in an uncle farm!

Unknown said...

And so it begins once again!

Kat said...

I am dying to get my garden going. With the exceptionally warm winter, and 2 week early spring, it is time. I just need my garden spot to dry up enough. We have had no lack of rain this winter.

Deana Sidney said...

I am going to be away for a while and will miss cooking so much. I am comforted to know that when I get back... my new CSA will be speeding along... bounty soon to come! I love that you guys help out with the farmer's work... good for you!!

Catherine said...

Dear T.W., That must have been fun! It really is work that nourishes the soul. It is fun from the start of planting to the harvest. I can hear the enjoyment in your post.
Blessings my friend, Catherine

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Sunday T.W!
We sure have been blessed with an adaptable winter this year. I don't take it for granted one moment!

We just seeded onions at Katie's greenhouse the other day. Boy are those things tiny. It's almost hard to believe the goodness they will one day gush!

I just love to "hear" the anticipation in your words, T.W. It sure is going to be a bountiful year!!!

Thank you so much for sharing...

P.S. I was just thinking of you the other day when I was buttering-up my chicken dinner. Marion thought I was nuts laughing out loud to myself at the thought of you buttering up yours!

Kathy said...

Love those baby chicks! Did you ever read The Egg and I? The seeding is fun with a group, isn't it?--thanks for sharing your photos.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Kathy - I have "The Egg and I" sitting on my nightstand. I am determined to read it this growing season!

Sophiesfoodiefiles said...

What a great way to start to grow new produce! It is that time of year again!!!
Those little chicks are adorable & 4 types of breeds is a good thing! The dinner that awaited you after a hard day's work is looking ooh so tasty & fabulous!

Great work delivered, all of you!

Barbara said...

Love reading about Restoration Farm coming to life. And to take part in the beginnings of new crops is so rewarding.
The baby chicks are so cute! I don't want to think about where they'll end up. :)

Zany said...

Wow, this gets me excited for the next season around the corner!

Mary Bergfeld said...

It sounds like an awesome way to spend the day. The soup sounds wonderful and I know your bread was a fabulous accompaniment. I hope there are many more weekends like this one in your future. Have a good evening. Blessings...Mary

Fresh Local and Best said...

I'm inspired by the togetherness and involvement of children and adults alike in this activity of setting up for the growing season. The chicks! Oh the chicks! I don't know if they could be any cuter. A perfect photo for Spring.

Velva said...

Woo-hoo! Restoration Farm is coming alive! I thought of you today while I was heading to Orchard Ponds Farms here n Tallahassee (where I have my community garden plot)....I think from reading your posts and loving them about the farm....I managed to gravitate towards a local organic farm here that was a short distance from my home. I do believe that I was inspired by your posts.

I am trying my hand at bread making but, I am doing it with a new bread machine. :-)


T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Velva - that is so nice to hear! You can see how much a part of my life Restoration Farm has become - I can't imagine my world without it. It sounds like it is much the same for your organic garden, and I can see the influence it has on your cooking. Good luck with the bread - no matter how you do it, fresh bread is wonderful!